Mathematician Peter Jones Named to the National Academy of Sciences

Peter Wilcox Jones, the James E. English Professor of Mathematics & Applied Mathematics, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in recognition of his outstanding and continuing contributions in original research.

He is among the 72 new members and 18 foreign associates elected to the NAS this year.

Jones, a member of the Yale University faculty since 1985, was honored for his work in the area of harmonic analysis, an area of pure math designed to identify and simplify patterns in functions. His career has meshed the pure math of this discipline with the applied mathematics of Fourier analysis and the applications of math to the current information overload in many branches of the sciences.

While continuing his work in pure mathematics, he also uses methods drawn from analysis and probability theory to address problems like how Google does a search — how the “library” of information is organized and layered so that a user can access it. He works with a large group at Yale that focuses on the value of math in biology and medicine for creating models from the data itself, noting that researchers are “drowning in tons of data and they cannot always be sure of what they are looking for in it.”

In addition to his research, Jones has been vitally involved in setting science policy for mathematics and strengthening interdisciplinary math applications. Since its inception in 1999, he has served as the chair of the Science Advisory Board at IPAM, a mathematics research institute created and funded by the National Science Foundation. In that post, he has helped shape the role of math in interdisciplinary programs, influence funding for new investigators and affect the leadership of programs.

He has also served on the boards of several research institutes, and directed numerous research programs and workshops worldwide aimed at effective integration of math into interdisciplinary agendas. Among these was a 2001-2002 program at the Institut Mittag-Leffler in Sweden.

Jones began his academic career as lecturer at the University of Chicago in 1978 and attained the rank of full professor within seven years. He received his doctorate from UCLA in pure mathematics in 1978, and began his lifelong international collaborations during his graduate studies when he relocated to Paris during his advisor’s year-long sabbatical to the University of Paris at Orsay. During his tenure as associate professor at Chicago he continued that path, serving for two years as assistant director of the Institut Mittag-Leffler, a research branch of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Among his previous honors, Jones received the Salem Prize in 1981, an award given annually to a young mathematician who has done outstanding work in the theory of Fourier series. He is also a Sloan Fellow, a foreign member of the Swedish Academy of Science and a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. In 1993 he received an honorary Doctorate of Technology from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden. He has published over 75 scholarly papers and mentored 17 doctoral students.

Fellows and foreign honorary members of the National Academy of Sciences are nominated and elected to the Academy by the current, broad-based membership. The members are scholars and practitioners in disciplines ranging from mathematics, physics, biological sciences, social sciences, humanities and the arts to public affairs and business. These experts serve pro bono to address critical national issues and give advice to the federal government and the public. This gives the Academy a unique capacity to conduct a wide range of interdisciplinary studies and public policy research.

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